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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ethelene McCabe Allen, May 21, 2006. Interview C-0314. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Influential neighbor and personal importance of religious faith

Allen describes her neighbor, Miss Mantha Smith, who played a particularly influential role during her formative years. Explaining that her own parents seldom went to church, Allen and her siblings went to Sunday school with Miss Smith every week and attended her Methodist church with her. Although offering a brief anecdote about a particularly traumatic experience at church when she was a small child, Allen continued to devoutly attend church into her adulthood and her religion formed a central aspect of her identity.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ethelene McCabe Allen, May 21, 2006. Interview C-0314. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Were there any other older people who were important to you as a child? Let's leave teachers aside; we'll get teachers later. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Miss Mantha Smith that we lived next to down in Wayne County. We visited her a lot and she had a daughter who I think had had a really high fever as a child and had damaged her brain. She could be a little silly at times, but she was funny and silly, but nice. Sweet, nice person.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
The daughter? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Yes, she never married and lived with her mother and daddy. She worked at barning tobacco some. I don't think they raised tobacco. I don't know what they did really. But they were neighbors. I know they owned their own land there. Smiths. They owned their own land.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
How was she important to you, Miss Mantha Smith? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: She would take us to Sunday school and church every Sunday. She went to a Methodist church. Mama and daddy, when they were away from their home church, they didn't join up with any church. It would be only a special occasion like a Christmas play that they would go to at that local church. Methodist. They were not Methodists and they didn't go there.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
What were they? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: They were - they called it Second Advent back then but it's called now, I think, Advent Christian. They just would go back to their home church, maybe visit it once a year or something like that. I remember they went regularly when I was a small child. Very small. I can barely remember sitting in church for so long in the summertime when it was so hot and being so tired, having to sit still, dressed up and it hot. I would start crying and want water and we'd have to go to the spring. There was a spring out back of the church and it was way down a little path then, in the woods. There was a spring there and the way we got our water - we picked up a clean leaf and made a cup out of it and we drank water from that leaf from the spring. I remember that. I would cry and want water and mama would take us to get water. Then we'd go back in and I'd just sit there. Tears would be rolling down my face, but they didn't make any sound. I was just miserable! I remember that. I might have been four years old. It's one of my earliest memories of sitting in church and being miserable - at Hickory Grove Church.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Yet you have continued to go all your life to church. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Yeah. It was a duty and we felt obligated to God to go. He expected us to do that. We had to do our duty. I did believe there was a god. I would pray to him, I remember at six and seven years old I would pray. I felt like he heard me.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Miss Mantha Smith took you to church. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: She'd take us to church and Sunday school, Maverene and me. I don't remember - I think Cecil went, at least part of the time.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
I bet Cecil was reluctant to go. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: I don't know I believe he went because I think he liked to dress up and go places and be somebody, so that was his way he could
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Maybe it was a way of getting - ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: It's the only way we could socialize, about, unless it was tobacco barning time and we worked at the barn, socializing, or a corn shucking or something like that. They would pull their corn in the fall and then we would go to each person's house and everybody gather around and shuck corn. Then they would put it in the barn.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
So your parents didn't mind you going to a Methodist church. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Oh no. They didn't care. They thought it was a good thing that we went to Sunday school, so I did appreciate that woman taking that much interest in us.